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Advent: Simeon and Anna

Anna and Simeon, Advent, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, nativity, prophecy, Jesus brought to the temple as a baby,Jerusalem, Holy Spirit

Anna at the presentation of Jesus (right), from Giotto, Chapel of Scrovegni. (Wikipedia)

So who were Simeon and Anna in the Advent story?

Lovers of God who given the gift of seeing him in the flesh–when Jesus was six weeks old.

After Jesus’ birth in the possible-stable in Bethlehem, he and his parents shifted to a better spot for a newborn and his mother.

Eight days after Jesus’ birth, a priest circumcised him according to the custom of his time in the Jewish faith. (Luke 2:21). The Life Application Bible noted “circumcision symbolized the Jews’ separation from Gentiles and their unique relationship with God.”

The family then settled down for Mary to recover.

Forty days after Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph took their baby boy to the temple in Jerusalem, a seven mile or so walk uphill. By Jewish law, Mary was considered “unclean” during those forty days and would have been secluded–she could not enter the temple. After those forty days, parents were expected to bring their baby to the temple along with a sacrifice for a sin offering.

The sin offering traditionally was a lamb, but in the case of poor families who could not afford a lamb, they could bring “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” The temple priest would sacrifice the animals/birds and declare the mother clean once more. (Leviticus 12:1-8)

Joseph, obviously, was not a wealthy man and brought two birds.

Simeon

Anna and Simeon, Advent, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, nativity, prophecy, Jesus brought to the temple as a baby,Jerusalem, Holy Spirit

Simeon in the Temple (Rembrandt–Wikipedia)

Jerusalem’s temple was a gathering place for the devout. Daily, priests performed sacrifices. They sold animals in the outer courtyards for those sacrifices, and other commerce took place.

The High Priests were politically connected and for many, temple worship was a ritual or tradition more than a truly worshipful experience.

But God always allows for a remnant of true believers to find him when they seek him.

Among those individuals were the ancient Anna (see below) and Simeon, “a man in Jerusalem . . . just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel.” (Luke 2: 25)

It does not say he was a member of the priesthood, but he knew God had promised a Messiah who would comfort his people (Isaiah 12:1).

Meeting the Holy Spirit

In addition, Simeon had had an encounter with the Holy Spirit–not an angel:

the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple.”

Fascinating. God sent the Holy Spirit when Jesus left the earth–to live in his people. Why did the Holy Spirit appear to Simeon?

To give glory and recognize the Son of God–just as John the Baptist did when he leapt in his mother’s womb.

God gave this righteous man a promise: he would not die before the Messiah returned.

That probably would be enough to keep me in the temple worshiping and waiting!

Enter the Messiah

And then one day, while Simeon was going about his business of worshiping God a young family entered and the Holy Spirit ignited Simeon–who took the child into his arms:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word: For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

Such a blessing, and yet another reminder to Mary and Joseph that God was with them and the child was from Him. Did they need any more reassurance God had sent this child and his purpose in so doing?

Simeon continued, though, and gave the pondering mother a little more to think about:

“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

What did that even mean?

Mothers tend to focus on the horror of a child pierced by a sword; Mary lived to see that happen to Jesus.

The second clause may be more pertinent: God looks at our hearts and so judges. Jesus provides the means by which God can look at us, despite our sin.

What had started out as an obedient trip to the temple had turned into something extraordinary.

And there was one more prophecy to come.

Anna

Anna and Simeon, Advent, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, nativity, prophecy, Jesus brought to the temple as a baby,Jerusalem, Holy Spirit

Anna the Prophetess (Rembrandt–Wikipedia)

Luke records Anna was a prophetess, the daughter of Panuel (face of God) of the tribe of Asher (from the hill country west of Galilee).

Probably married at a young age, it appears her husband died seven years after the wedding and she spent the next 84 years in the temple fasting and worshipping God with prayers night and day.

She was “of a great age,” probably in the neighborhood of 105 years!

“Prophetess” suggests she was unusually close to God–and thus able and willing to proclaim God’s truth.

When she came across Jesus, “she gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”

She saw Jesus after Simeon and focused on what his purpose was in coming–to redeem his people from sin.

Note she spoke about him to those who were looking for their Messiah–not necessarily the religious authorities.

Fascinating times

It had been a fascinating time of unprecedented change and unusual occurrences in the temple–surely some understood the significance of what had happened.

Within the previous 18 months Zacharias had lost his voice and seen an angel while making the sacrifice. God had intervened in a miraculous way and Zechariah’s elderly and barren wife Elizabeth gave birth to a child.

Shepherds reported that angels had appeared to them and told of the newborn king. The countryside was rife with stories and discussion–what could God be up to?

Simeon and Anna recognized the truth and pointed to the Savior of the World.

Those who had eyes to see, must have wondered, prayed, given thanks and waited–what would happen next with this extraordinary child?

Tweetables

Anna and Simeon: prophets of God in the temple. Click to Tweet

What would you have done with such prophecies at your child’s baptism? Click to Tweet

How many needed to proclaim God’s truth about Jesus? Click to Tweet

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